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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Spatial and Temporal Variations in Water Quality and Land Use in a Semi-Arid Catchment in Bolivia

Gossweiler, Benjamin; Wesström, Ingrid; Messing, Ingmar; Romero, Ana Maria; Joel, Abraham


Increasing pressures caused by human activities pose a major threat to water availability and quality worldwide. Water resources have been declining in many catchments during recent decades. This study investigated patterns of river water quality status in a peri-urban/rural catchment in Bolivia in relation to land use during a 26 year period. Satellite images were used to determine changes in land use. To assess water quality, data in the dry season from former studies (1991-2014), complemented with newly collected data (2017), were analysed using the National Sanitation Foundation-Water Quality Index method and the Implicit Pollution Index method. The highest rates of relative increase in land use area were observed for forest, urban, and peri-urban areas, whereas relative decreases were observed for water infiltration zones, bare soil, shrubland, and grassland areas. The water quality indices revealed clear water quality deterioration over time, and from catchment headwaters to outlet. Statistical analyses revealed a significant relationship between decreasing water quality and urban expansion. These results demonstrate the need for an effective control programme, preferably based on water quality index approaches as in the present study and including continuous monitoring of runoff water, mitigation of pollution, and water quality restoration, in order to achieve proper water management and quality.


water quality index; river pollution; semi-arid catchment; urbanisation; dry season

Published in

2019, Volume: 11, number: 11, article number: 2227